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The Five Key Habits of Smart Dads

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The Five Key Habits of Smart Dads

The Five Key Habits of Smart Dads – Move in the Right Direction

Dads in Singapore are headed in the right direction when it comes to their attitudes on active fathering. 97% of the respondents in the 2009 Singapore Fatherhood Public Perception Survey say that fathers play an important role in their children’s lives.

Aptly, the Five Key Habits of Smart Dads Fathering Paradigm uses an automobile wheel to help you "visualise your role so that you can move beyond where you are to where you want to go -which is of course what good wheels on a car do for you."

In the wheel model, there is a logical inside-to-the-outside progression of what the parts represent: the axle, lug nuts, rim, tire, and tread.

Even the tracks are significant, for they represent legacy. Just as a tire’s tread leaves an imprint, the amount and quality of time spent with your child will leave its corresponding imprint in his/her life. A loving father makes a mark in his child’s life and that of generations to come.

Leave your mark in your child’s life by considering these five useful tips:

  1. Axle: Grasping your significance as a father

    An axle is the point of contact between the wheel assembly and the rest of the car. Similarly, understanding your importance as a father is what connects your fathering to the rest of your life. It impacts how you use time and set priorities with your child’s well-being in mind.

    At the root of your fathering habits, is the self-concept. If you have a healthy self-esteem as a man, you will tend to have a healthy self-esteem as a father. Work through whatever limitations you have, but know that you are significant to your child simply because you are Dad and will be there for him/her at any point in time.

  2. Lug Nuts: Acting intentionally

    Five lug nuts secure the wheel to the axle. They represent intentional actions to connect your grasp of significance as a father (axle) to the living out of that understanding in your relationship with your child (the rim, tire, tread and tracks).

    Acting intentionally includes being proactive instead of merely reacting to crisis situations; setting clear measurable goals for fathering; committing to the goals; evaluating your progress; as well as correcting your course when necessary.

  3. Rim: Using your primary and secondary networks

    The rim represents your fathering network. The interplay of personalities -yours, your child’s and that of the child’s mother- forms the primary network. To use this network, know your strengths, affirm your child, and learn more about your child from his mother.

    Raising a child calls for team effort and interdependence. The secondary network includes other fathers and fathering mentors, significant adults in your child’s life, as well as resources such as books or seminars.

  4. Tire: Communicating life skills and principles

    The tire, mounted on the rim, represents imparting life skills and principles needed for your child to function successfully as an adult. This includes teaching self-control, how to respond to others’ needs, and how to express feelings without hurting others.

    The tire’s steel-belted plies represent your personal example and how you apply discipline –these support the life skills and principles taught. Inflate the tire with the ‘air’ of your love, affection and consistency.

  5. Tread: Maximising your moments
    A father-child relationship given little time and emotional energy is like a bald tire with dangerously little grip and faint imprint.

Maximise moments in the day-to-day routine. Play with your child often. It builds bridges of shared interests and experiences that last a lifetime. Create safe spaces that allow you to chat and connect with your child. It may be in the car, a café or a corner of the home. Maximise ‘big’ moments too – celebrate special days and achievements together.

Remember, a father plays just as important a role as a mother when it comes to the nurturing and development of a child. Take on an active parenting role and make an impact in your child’s life today!


This is based on The Five Key Habits of Smart Dads by Paul Lewis (1994).

Paul Lewis is the editor of “Smart Dads” newsletter. He teaches fathering and family life skills courses for Family University, which he founded. He is also the author of “40 Ways to Teach Your Child Values”, “Famous Fathers”, and “The Complete Smart Dads Toolkit”. Paul and his wife, Leslie, have five children and reside in San Diego, California.

Useful websites for dads: